Danger of hard freeze passes in Valley

February 27, 2011 

Farmers in the central San Joaquin Valley said they won't know until today how much the weekend's below-freezing temperatures damaged their almond and tree-fruit crops.

But weather forecasters said growers would get a reprieve Sunday night, when overnight lows were expected to remain above freezing. Sunday's overnight low in Fresno was expected to drop to 34 degrees, the National Weather Service said.

Temperatures will begin to moderate this week, said Jim Bagnall, a weather service meteorologist in Hanford.

A new storm is expected to reach the Valley on Tuesday night or Wednesday, but it will be a warmer air mass.

Saturday night's below-freezing temperatures were driven by dry, arctic air out of western Canada, he said.

Overnight Saturday, temperatures dropped below 30 degrees in several areas, Bagnall said. Lemoore's low reached 26 degrees and Hanford's temperature fell to 27 degrees, he said. But Fresno's low of 30 did not break the record low for the date of 26 degrees set in 1962, Bagnall said.

It was icicle-cold Saturday night at Duffy Peck's farm in the San Joaquin River bottom in Fresno County. Peck ran water all night to raise the temperature in his orchards, and he said the 60-degree well water froze when it hit his citrus trees.

One thermometer in his field registered 26 degrees, Peck said.

Marvin Meyers, who grows almonds at Russell and Shields avenues on Fresno County's west side, is hopeful his trees weathered the cold. But he saw "some petals with a little bit of discoloration" Sunday. Temperatures on Meyers' 3,000-acre farm ranged from 32 degrees in the higher elevations near Interstate 5 to a low of 28 degrees near the Valley floor.

While the threat of a hard freeze appears to be over for farmers this week, the coming storm Tuesday night could cause headaches for travelers. Snow levels Wednesday should be 6,000 to 7,000 feet in the mountains, with some areas getting snow at 5,000 feet.

Travelers needed to check road conditions Sunday. Some roads in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, for example, were closed in the afternoon.

Park officials reported the Wolverton Snowplay Area in Sequoia National Park was closed because of snowpack instability. But the Columbine Snowplay Area in Kings Canyon National Park and Cherry Gap Snowplay Area in the Sequoia National Forest were open.

The reporter can be reached at banderson@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6310.

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